November Safety Tip: Cold Weather Transition

November 11, 2016 - November is upon us and we are experiencing the transition from long, warm, humid days to shorter and colder days and nights. This time of year can be a welcomed relief for those who enjoy cooler working conditions but we find our worksites going through changes that could lead to an injury.

Remember that silo ladder that we climbed countless times? In warm weather it was safer to climb but now it has frost and ice on every rung. How about walking under a silo or a roof for that matter? There were no ice chunks or icicles that could break free, creating an upper level fall hazard. Look at the ground and walking surfaces now. Do you see a difference starting to appear? Smooth concrete, dust and dirt have given way to icy puddles, black ice and snow. Remember how easy it was to drive throughout a worksite or roadway? Now the chances of being stuck or sliding off of the road are possible. You should also notice that the way we dress has changed. Our coats, coveralls, boots, socks, hats and gloves are heavier to keep us warm but can often get in the way of the work we are trying to perform. Sunburns have given way to frostbite and windburn hazards but there are things we can do to safely carry out the function we are trying to achieve.

Clothing: Wear base layer clothing preferably made of a moisture wicking material. Choose heavier gloves with lined insulation. Wear wool or thermal socks for added warmth and comfort. Keep your ears covered with an insulated hat while outside and wear a facemask when conditions are worse.

Walking Surfaces: Keep walkways clear and apply salt as needed. Take shorter steps, turn your feet outward a bit and “walk like a penguin” to prevent slips and falls. Ice cleats come in handy if you plan on walking on icy surfaces.

Equipment: Keep equipment free of ice buildup. Never climb a ladder with ice or frost on the rungs. Knock down icicles that you can safely reach before they become too big and treacherous. Start your cars, trucks, tractors or other equipment and let them warm up before use.

Winter can be a safe season if you simply take the time to prepare before working. Assess your work area and remove any obstacles prior to beginning work. Take your time while walking or driving and give yourself extra time to get to your destination.  A well planned task almost never results in an unplanned injury. Enjoy the beautiful scenery that Mother Nature provides us in the coming months and have a safe transition to Winter.